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"Utica Cove"
"Nugent Cove"
"The Cove"
"Party Cove"

Mile 596.7


What About the Cove at the Tip of Six Mile Island?

updated April 24, 2011

History and Controversy:

May, 1999: Nugent Sand Company leased 156.2 acres from private landowners for use in its commercial barge operations. The acreage contained a 50-acre man-made body of water, standing about 200 feet inland from the Ohio River.

"Utica Cove" was created when the Nugent Sand Company dug a channel connecting the river to what had been a private quarry and lake.

2005: Recreational boaters started going into the area against the wishes of the sand company and land owners.

December, 2009: From public notice LRL-2009-851-cmh: the Nugent Sand Company applied for a permit to expand their barge operations within the area.

The Indiana DNR maintained that the cove became a public waterway, available for public use. As the debate made its way to the Indiana Superior Court, boaters mixed with commercial traffic, causing issues between the sand company that owns the land, local boaters and local residents.

April, 2010: From the IN Supreme Court: Case No. 49S00-0812-CV-00649:

"Landowners and lessees obtained state approval a decade ago to dig a channel from the Ohio River to a nearby lake so that they could use the lake for a sand and gravel operation. They now seek judicial relief from conditions imposed within their 1999 permits. We conclude that that the present action should be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies." link

This did not decide who owned the property or the waters, but rather indicated that Nugent should have pursued a different route in the earlier permitting process.

May, 2010: Public Comment Period closed for permit application to the US Army Corps of Engineers.

December 8th, 2010: The USACE issued Permit Number LRL-2009-851-cmh to permittee Nugent Sand Company, allowing proposed barge cleaning and fleeting. The permitting acknowledged that boaters use the area and imposed restrictions on barge traffic during summer weekends and holidays, which represented a compromise between recreational and commercial activity.

Following are highlights of the permit, which Port KY LLC received after a request under the Freedom of Information Act:

  • 71 Barges permitted in the area during the boating off-season
  • 41 Barge limit between May 1 - September 15
  • No barge traffic permitted from 5 p.m. the day before and 7 a.m. the day after a weekend or federal holiday
  • There are to be no chemicals used in the cleaning process
  • All of the water used in cleaning is to be recovered in a containment barge for disposal off-site
  • There will be no discharge into the Cove
  • Permittee is not allowed to operate towboats in the Cove at all on the weekends during boating season unless it is an emergency situation
  • The permitting did not grant property rights or exclusive privileges

Here is the full copy of the permit: link

2011: Since the issuance of the permit, it is reported that Nugent has leased the area to another company. Specifically, TPG Marine Enterprises LLC acquired the Mount Vernon Barge Service Inc of Mt. Vernon, IL in 2007. A subsidiary, MVBS Jeffersonville LLC, established in 2009, has advertised in the Waterways Journal, promoting their new cleaning, fleeting, repair and 24-hour/year-round service.


Above, a picture of "The Cove" with a digital rendering of 41 barges in the area. Photo courtesy of Capt. Joe Frith.


This cove continues to stir controversy and debate on the river and on the internet. It's fair to say that Nugent doesn't want boaters in the cove any more than you'd like them in your marina. On the other end of the spectrum, one website has used the Indiana decision to call the area a "Boater's State Park."

Some boaters frequent the area, which they do at their own risk and against the wishes of the landowners and the commercial enterprises. Even though there are restrictions on the water usage and containment, I'm still not sure I want to swim there given the cleaning activity that is underway.

It would be reasonable to speculate that representatives from both sides of the issue will continue to monitor activties within the area very closely. Also, it would not be surprising to see increased monitoring by law enforcement. It is quite a shame that local boaters don't have more places to go that are out of the current and away from commercial barge activity.

Commercial Activity in General: The intent of this site is to help make our boaters safer and more knowledgable. In the interest of safety, I would recommend that boaters refrain from operating near any commercial activity that could potentially put themselves, their guests and their vessels in jeopardy.


Above, a picture submitted by Nugent Sand to Port KY in 2010, illustrating what they call a near miss between a barge and a small boat. Controversy surrounds the zoom on the picture.

Above, a picture from the "Party Cove" Facebook group on a 2010 summer weekend.

Other External links:

  • Louisville Courier Journal Article describing permit (12/10) (removed by CJ)
  • Evening News and Tribune Article (01/11): link
  • "Party Cove" Facebook Page: link
  • Fox 41 News story (08/10): link (interesting comments)
  • SaveTheCove.com link

Let us know if you have anything to add concerning local river activity.

-Capt. Eric

Other Local Knowledge: link




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